There were six loose-ball scrambles in the opening game of Pilot Rocky Top League action Monday night at Bearden High School.
The News Sentinel’s Skylar McBee was on the floor for five of them.
The other one occurred when he was out of the game for a 3-minute rest.
“Now that’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about that carries over into the regular season,’’ said Boo Jackson, a former Eastern Michigan standout who has played professionally overseas the past eight years. “Skylar is a blue-collar worker, and he understands he needs to do those things. That’s why he can match up with a guy who may have a little more athleticism and win that battle every time.’’
Tennessee’s McBee helped the News Sentinel (3-2) win a 135-113 playoff game against Larry Smith Insurance (3-2) with his 37 minutes of maximum effort.
“Every team needs a guy like Skylar who is going to do all the little things, and do his job on the floor and more,’’ said Jordan McRae, McBee’s News Sentinel and Tennessee teammate. “You see Skylar dive on the floor all the time, and you know he’s doing it for the team. It makes you want to get after it, too.’’
McRae led all scorers with a league-high 55 points, but McBee found his 3-point range with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting, which included him making seven of 10 shots from beyond the arc.
“Coach (Cuonzo) Martin has made it clear that for him, it’s about playing hard all the time,’’ said McBee, who averaged 12.6 minutes and three points per game this past season while hitting 32.4 percent beyond the arc.
“I feel like playing hard and playing physical is my game,’’ said McBee, who chose to walk on at UT rather than accept basketball scholarship offers from UC-Santa Clara and Marshall as well as a scholarship offer to play quarterback at Middle Tennessee State. “I want to come out here and try to out-hustle and out-fight people.’’
McBee, a rising junior who was placed on scholarship last year, figures to remain at the shooting guard position, likely backing up the explosive McRae.
But McBee is enjoying the show McRae has put on in the summer basketball league as much as anybody.
“Hey, when Jordy is scoring 45 and 55 every game, I’m going to get him the ball,’’ McBee said. “I just try to work on some aspects of my game out here, like ball handling and perimeter defense.’’
The 6-foot-2 McBee has added 10 pounds of muscle this summer, bulking up to 200 pounds, and he said he has continued to get hundreds of shots up each day.
As much as anyone, McBee is looking forward to playing in Martin’s motion offense.
“That’s actually what we ran at Grainger (High School),’’ McBee said. “I think the motion offense gets you moving a little more, and everyone is touching the ball. That kind of movement is tough to defend.’’
McBee, if nothing else, has proved tough, period, regardless of the venue and the name on the front of his jersey.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/mikegriffith32 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/askgriff/